PUTTING THEIR SAFETY WHERE THEIR MOUTH IS…. If you’ve ever visited Capitol Hill in Washington, especially in the post-9/11 era, you know there’s quite a bit of security. Visitors, staffers, reporters, and guests have to go through metal detectors, not only to get into the Capitol itself, but also to enter any of the congressional office buildings.

E.J. Dionne Jr. argued today that conservative lawmakers, loyal to the NRA, should at least try to do something about these security measures — by fighting for their removal.

Isn’t it time to dismantle the metal detectors, send the guards at the doors away and allow Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights by being free to carry their firearms into the nation’s Capitol?

I’ve been studying the deep thoughts of senators who regularly express their undying loyalty to the National Rifle Association, and I have decided that they should practice what they preach. They tell us that the best defense against crime is an armed citizenry and that laws restricting guns do nothing to stop violence.

If they believe that, why don’t they live by it?

Why would freedom-loving lawmakers want to hide behind guards and metal detectors? Shouldn’t NRA members be outraged that Second Amendment rights mean nothing in the very seat of our democracy?

There’s a tongue-in-cheek quality to Dionne’s piece, but his argument is very compelling. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) insisted last week that Americans must “have the right to self-defense,” and the more Americans are allowed to carry concealed firearms, the safer the public becomes. By that reasoning, Dionne explains, “keeping guns out of the Capitol makes all our elected officials far less safe. If just a few senators had weapons, the criminals wouldn’t know which ones were armed, and all senators would be safer, right? Isn’t that better than highly intrusive gun control — i.e., keeping people with guns out of the Capitol in the first place?”

Dionne didn’t mention it, but there is a history of gun violence in the Capitol — incidents, I should add, that happened before metal detectors were installed — but I suppose that reinforces Dionne’s thesis. If conservatives believe American families are safer if more people are carrying concealed firearms, and there have been shootings on the Hill before, it stands to reason the right would demand that more people be armed in Congress. It’s necessary for “safety.”

Over to you, NRA.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.